AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti cannot wait for the start of the new Serie A campaign this weekend as he looks to put the disappointments of last year behind him.
AC Milan played some eye-catching football but the 2003 European champions were left trophy-less for the first season since Ancelotti took charge of the club in 2001. Juventus FC pipped the Rossoneri to the Scudetto, then Liverpool FC astonished Europe with their dramatic victory in the UEFA Champions League final.
Ancelotti is determined Milan will not come off second best again. He has strengthened his squad with the signings of strikers Alberto Gilardino and Christian Vieri, midfielder Johann Vogel and defender Marek Jankulovski. And he insists that the Rossoneri will not sacrifice flair to achieve their goal of returning to the top of Italian and European football.
uefa.com caught up with Ancelotti at Milan's Milanello training ground, where the coach admitted that the race for the title could be closer than ever.
uefa.com: Many observers believe that the next Serie A campaign will be a three-horse race between you, Juventus and FC Internazionale Milano, do you agree?
Carlo Ancelotti: Yes, I think that Milan, Juventus and Inter are better than the rest and all have the same chance of winning the title.
uefa.com: Inter are often considered among the favourites, but they have not won the Scudetto since 1989. What could be the difference this year?
Ancelotti: They did well in their first season under [Roberto] Mancini and you always need a bit of time when there is a new coach. Mancini was given the opportunity to continue with his project and will benefit from last season's experience. They have also signed a few important players. I do think they have made significant steps in the right direction.
uefa.com: Milan have also signed a few players this summer. How are they adapting to the team?
Ancelotti: Very well, but I'm not surprised. All the new signings are great professionals with enough experience to come to a team like Milan and adapt very quickly. Obviously they need time to get used to playing with their new team-mates but it will come.
uefa.com: A few seasons ago you started to use a midfield with technically skilled players such as Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Kakà behind two strikers. You achieved great results with that system. Will you continue with it or can we expect some tactical changes this season?
Ancelotti: During the summer we have tried to defend with three men. I think it can be a useful option sometimes during the season. However, playing entertaining football is a priority at Milan and we will always try to build our team with a solid defence, a very technical midfield and a strong attack. Balance is the key.
uefa.com: Is it hard to work on the psychological effects of the defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League final last season?
Ancelotti: Obviously it was very bad for morale, especially considering the way we lost. But the best way to wipe that night from our minds is starting to play and win games.
I'm sure we will no longer be thinking about the past when the new season starts.
uefa.com: Patrick Vieira to Juventus, Alberto Gilardino to Milan, Luís Figo to Inter... Which is the best signing of the summer?
Ancelotti: I think that all the three top teams did well in the transfer campaign, signing the best players available in the roles they needed. As regards us, we also signed Christian Vieri in attack and Marek Jankulovski who is very versatile and can cover different positions.
uefa.com: During your playing career you won a Scudetto at AS Roma. Do you think the Giallorossi can challenge for the title again?
Ancelotti: They had a very troubled season but they have a high quality squad and I'm sure they can quickly return to fight for a place in the Champions League at least. Udinese [Calcio] can also continue to do well because they are an extremely organised club. [ACF] Fiorentina have signed important players and a very good coach [Cesare Prandelli] and I think they have a good chance of having a great season like [UC] Sampdoria and [US Città di] Palermo did last year.
uefa.com: Which young player could become the surprise of the season?
Ancelotti: I think there are many promising players especially in smaller clubs. However I'm curious to see how [Udinese forward Paulo] Barreto will play in Serie A. He is a an extremely talented player.
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